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The EEOC Reaches a Settlement in Landmark Sexual Orientation Harassment Case

According to a press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency has reached a first-of-its-kind settlement in a workplace sexual orientation harassment case. All forms of workplace sexual harassment must be taken seriously. Employees deserve working conditions that are free from harassment, discrimination or retaliation. If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, please contact an experienced Charlotte NC employment attorney for immediate legal assistance.

The Company Fired an Employee For Complaining About Harassment

According to the EEOC, IFCO Systems terminated a female employee after her complaints of sexual harassment. The employee alleged that her boss harassed her based on her status as a lesbian and on her gender. Specifically, she alleged that her boss repeatedly made offensive and suggestive comments about her appearance. After suffering considerable abuse, the employee lodged an official complaint with the upper management of the company. Only a few days after making the complaint, she was fired. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both discrimination on the basis of sex and employer retaliation are prohibited. Eventually this case reached a settlement, and the company agreed to pay her $182,000 in monetary damages. This case is especially noteworthy because the law involving claims of sexual orientation harassment is still developing. Currently, the EEOC has stated that their interpretation of the Title VII is that it covers workplace harassment based on sexual orientation. However, this is a relatively recent development and this is still a fast changing area of law.

North Carolina: Are There Any Legal Protections For Sexual Orientation Harassment?

As was reported by National Public Radio earlier this year, legal protection for LGBT individuals has been a major controversy in North Carolina. In February, the city of Charlotte passed a local ordinance that would have provided additional legal protections for the LGBT community. Subsequently, the state legislature of North Carolina passed a law that invalidated that local ordinance. Currently, the Human Rights Campaign reports that North Carolina is one of 28 states that does not provide any state level employment protection against discrimination that occurs based on LGBT status. However, some form of protection may be available to workers in North Carolina under federal law. For example, the EEOC believes that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees against sexual orientation-based harassment. However, that legislation only covers companies that employ at least 15 people. Further, it can be difficult to determine exactly who counts as an ‘employee’ under that law. Determining the precise motivating nature of workplace harassment or discrimination can also become extremely complex. For example, in the previously mentioned case against IFCO Systems, the employee alleged harassment based both on her lesbian status and her gender. She faced insulting and aggressive comments such as “you would look better in a dress.” That type of comment straddles the line between gender-based harassment and sexual orientation-based harassment. Ultimately, if you have faced any form of workplace sexual harassment, you need to consult with an experienced attorney.

Contact A Charlotte Employment Lawyer Today

At Strianese, PLLC, our dedicated North Carolina employment attorneys have extensive experience handling sexual harassment and employment discrimination claims. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, please fill out our comprehensive and fully confidential case evaluation form today.